Face Lift

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Every year, when we tell people that we still work, even through the winter months, they invariably ask us, “what do you do during the winter?” We find plenty of ways to keep busy, but one of our main goals during the off season is to do what we can to make our facilities better. This winter, we’ve been giving our store a face lift and preparing a new fairy garden display area. Primarily, that means a lot of painting.

We’re giving the floor a more subdued slate gray covering that coordinates better with the rest of the decor. Our red floor was getting a little tired and needed an overhaul. We’ve also repainted the bathroom, added a purple accent wall to our fairy garden display area and updated some of our wooden trim with a fresh white color. The overall effect is to make the story feel more open and airy, and the space is much brighter and more inviting now.

As you can see, this is not a task for the faint of heart. We’ve had to get creative with our storage options while painting because of our high inventory volume–and new things are coming in all the time. It feels an awful lot like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Even Lily has volunteered to help–she provides great moral support and reminds us every once in a while that we need to take a break so we can play ball with her.

We’re excited to see the finished product and look forward to being able to show off our renovated store this spring!

Why are my plants turning yellow?

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The Problem

We’re to that point in the summer, especially with a wet summer like we’ve been having, where containers start to look a little ragged and the leaves on your plants are probably starting to turn a little yellow. This is a condition know as chlorosis.

Sweetgum-leaf-interveinal-chlorosisChlorosis is the result of a chlorophyll deficiency. In most cases, the tips of the newest leaves will be the first to turn yellow. Then the discoloration will work its way down the leaves and into the older foliage. As you can see from the picture, the veins of the leaf will remain a darker green. In severe cases the leaves can turn almost white.

There are a few conditions that can cause chlorosis, but one of the most common is iron (or ferrous sulfate) deficiency. Now, the problem is not that there is an iron deficiency in the soil, because most soils have plenty of iron to satisfy any plant’s needs, but that there is a shortage of the proper type of iron. Of the two types of iron found in the soil, the kind that is often lacking is the more soluble, and therefore more readily usable, form.

The Reason

So why do plants need iron?

Even though most plants don’t need a lot of iron, it is essential that they have the little bit they need because without it, the plant cannot produce chlorophyll. Plants use iron to transport oxygen and other nutrients needed for photosynthesis from the roots up to the leaves. Iron is also used by many plants in some enzyme functions.

The Solution

Give your plants iron!

Many garden centers sell chelated iron fertilizers (chelated is just a fancy way to say that it’s water soluble) which can be mixed with water according to the proportions given on the label and then fed to the plants by watering them with the mixture. This is an easy way to give iron to houseplants and plants growing in containers. If you have trees, shrubs, or beds that need iron, there are fertilizers such as copperas or other high-iron fertilizers that can be worked into the soil around the plants that need it.

Unfortunately, giving your plants the iron fertilizer may not be enough for it to have its intended effect since the problem is not always a lack of iron but conditions that inhibit the availability to plants. There are several factors that can inhibit a plant’s iron intake besides a non-soluble form of iron. These factors include:

  • high soil pH
  • high levels of phosphorus in the soil
  • too much clay soil
  • overly compacted and/or wet soil

Fortunately, there are solutions to each of these problems.

Fixing the pH

Highly alkaline soils (levels 8 and higher) restrict the plants ability to absorb iron because high pH decreases iron’s solubility. If you have applied an iron fertilizer and it seems to be having no effect, you may need to lower your soil’s pH by adding acidic matter to the soil. One easy way to lower the pH in beds and around trees and shrubs is to work left-over coffee grounds into the soil.

Fixing phosphorus levels

It is hard for plants to get too much phosphorus because this nutrient is incredibly important for good plant health. However, on those rare occasions when a plant has too much available phosphorus, the plant will store the excess phosphorus in the form of phytic acid, binding up other important nutrients such as iron in the process. To correct this condition–which will usually only happen as the result of over-fertilization–simply use a lower phosphorus (the middle number) fertilizer.

Fixing clay soils

You will never have to worry about this condition in your containers if you use a quality potting mix when planting your containers, but this condition is frequently encountered in flower beds and other in-ground plantings. Clay soil lacks the organic matter which contains the nutrients needed to make the iron in the soil available to the plants. To fix this, work organic matter such as peat moss and compost into the soil. For heavy clay soils, it may take a few years of working in organic matter to obtain a suitable loamy soil.

Fixing wet or compacted soils

When the soil becomes too wet or too compacted, there is not enough air for the roots to be able to take up the iron in the soil. This problem is closely related to the problem of clay soil since clay soil in beds and plantings makes drainage slower and clay soil is often heavily compacted, but it can also occur in containers that have been over-watered. Once again, this problem can be lessened in beds by working organic matter into the soil so that the drainage and aeration are better. Another method which is effective in both containers and in-ground plantings is to use a chelated iron fertilizer as a foliar spray or soil supplement.

So now you know why your plants are turning yellow and have the know-how to fight chlorosis.

Helpful sources and further reading:




“Too high, won’t die; too low, won’t grow.”

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This little saying gets thrown around a lot here at the greenhouse.

It’s a quick and easy way to remember not to plant things too deeply, which is a common mistake that many new gardeners make.

Unless you’re a veteran gardener who knows your plants and which are the exceptions, following this rule will help more of your plants survive than not. Many people just don’t think about it. They plant their flower beds and vegetable gardens, and if something gets planted a little too deep, they don’t even notice.

So why is it important not to plant things too deeply?

Because it will make it harder for your plants to grow and could even cause their stems to rot off.

The crown of the plant is where the stem meets the soil and turns into the root system.


Ideally, the crown should be level with the soil, and most plants don’t like to be planted any deeper than the crown with many doing just as well when planted a little higher.

As mentioned before, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Tomatoes, for instance, should be planted with the crown of the plant several inches deep. The reason for this is that all of the stem that’s underground will send out new roots that will help strengthen the plant and allow it to gather more nutrients. Some sedums will do the same and can be planted deeper than the crown.

Even the plants that can be planted deeper will do just fine when planted with the crown at soil level as well.

One plant to be especially careful with is the tuberous begonias as they are susceptible to rotting from over-watering.

What’s the point of all this?

When in doubt “too high, won’t die; too low, won’t grow” is always a good rule to follow.

Fairy Gardens Galore

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We just finished the second of our fairy/miniature gardening workshops, and boy did we have fun!

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It was exciting to see the imagination of each person come out in their miniature creations. Some chose a backyard theme with a few little patio chairs and a small garden plot. Others went for with a more eclectic approach, making some of their own accessories to fill their little fairy world.

fairy gardens 114This fairy gardener proved that you can make a cute little garden in a small shallow container, and both her little wheelbarrow and wooden pan turned out nicely.

fairy gardens 113Here’s someone who chose to use our little “Fiddlehead Fairy House,” showing that you don’t need a huge container to fit a fairy house in your garden.

The kids had fun too! Their creativity even showed up some of us adults!

Here’s a few of the fairy gardens our staff have made. Some of these are for sale, but others are merely for display and inspiration.

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We’ve had 12 fairy gardens that either went off to their new homes or were left here to stay nice and cozy-warm until the weather warms up. We’ve still got plenty of miniature plants and fairy garden accessories, though, so stop by and take a look. Maybe you’ll be inspired to take a few things home and try your hand at this magical

Fairy Gardening DIY – Fairy Swing

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As a precursor to our fairy/miniature gardening workshops we’ll be holding this spring, we thought we’d feature a few fairy garden DIY projects. Many of these projects are super easy and simple to do with minimal commitment of time and money. Since we will be focusing mainly on the planting and design aspects in our workshops, we hope these posts will be a nice introduction to the crafting side of this exciting hobby.

Today’s craft: fairy swing

This is a simple swing tutorial that I found on a blog that has several other cute tutorials. You can check out this tutorial along with others on the same blog here: Juice

1 piece of bark for the seat of the swing – about half an inch thick
2 pieces of twine or yarn or whatever stringy material you want to use
4 long twigs
1 medium length twig
2 short twigs

(The particular dimensions for each of the pieces will depend on how big you want to make your swing. It’s a good to start out with an idea of the size of your fairy garden so you can make your accessories to scale.)

You’ll start out by making the seat of the swing. Find a nice piece of bark that’s about 1/2″ thick or at least thick enough to have two holes drilled into it.

Once you’ve got your holes drilled, thread your twine through the holes and tie a knot at the end of each string to keep it in place. You can add a bit of glue to the knots if you want to make it extra sturdy

Now that you’ve got the seat of the swing made, it’s time to move on to the frame. Once you’ve cut your twigs to the right length you can start gluing them together. The four long twigs become the feet of the swing, the medium length twig will become the top beam to which you tie the swing, and the short twigs will be braces on either side of the swing to help make sure it keeps its shape.

Here’s a picture of the finished product! As you can see, the frame is easy to construct. Hot glue is a nice way to keep everything in place, but if you don’t have access to a hot glue gun, you can use regular glue as well. Once the glue dries, you could even get some dried grass or other natural fiber and tie it around each of the joints to add a little extra stability as well as a nice rustic touch.


Here’s a swing one of our employees made for their fairy garden.

And now you can add your new swing to your fairy garden!

One of the great things about these types of crafts is that you can modify them to fit your tastes. You could paint your twigs if you want them to be more colorful. You could use colored yarn for the seat. You could get an old rubber ring and make a tire swing. The possibilities are endless! So get your imagination fired up and have fun making accessories!

Under Construction

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There are more ways than one to gear up for planting season here at Moraine Gardens. Besides all the plants we’re nurturing along, we’ve also been working on some remodeling of our greenhouses and store space.

In preparation for our container gardening workshops, we’ve taken out four benches from the front of out greenhouse to make room for moveable tables that can be re-arranged to fit the needs of the space. Here’s a few pics of this portion of our remodel.

That last pic is what our new display tables will be shaped like. A few of them have even been finished since we took these pictures and several of us think they look like little boats. Soon they’ll be carrying their cargoes of container gardens from our new workshops. As you can see, this space still a work in progress. But take all the stuff away, add a few tables, and you’ve got a clean workspace with plenty of room to pot to your heart’s content. We’ll post more pics when the space is all done.

We’re also excited about the newest addition to our store space. We needed more room to store our larger pots and containers since much of their old space is being taken over by our new fairy garden displays, so we cleaned out an old back room (and believe us, there was plenty of junk to clean out), scrubbed all the grime away, put up new drywall, and painted the floor and walls. It’s a completely new room and has turned into quite the lovely addition to our store space.

Now the room is almost finished! Once we get everything situated, we’ll post more pics of the finished product.


Keeping Busy

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People ask us all the time, “What do you do this time of year?”

A lot of people seem to think that our greenhouses are as barren as the frozen Wisconsin landscape and that everything just magically appears, all full grown and ready to go, come spring. While we may not have nearly as many customers during the winter months, we still manage to stay pretty busy getting ready for all those spring-fevered gardeners who will begin emerging from their winter dens near the beginning of April.

One of our biggest tasks during these cold winter months is propagation. Whether it’s dividing grasses and ferns, cutting and rooting all manner of ivies, geraniums, and sedums, or planting seeds and bulbs, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

fresh geranium cuttings

fresh geranium cuttings

Each year we grow close to ten thousand plants from cuttings we take here in our own facilities, from geraniums to ivies to sedums to conifers. Of course, we’re careful to make sure we only propagate non-patented plants, since people in the plant world are just as fastidious about their new varieties as any inventor would be about protecting his inventions.

This year, we’ve been working on some special projects to get ready for our Fairy/Miniature Gardening Workshop. When it comes time for our workshop, we’ll have a whole slew of sedums, ivies, miniature conifers, and other miniature plants ready to become part of someone’s miniature garden.

Another effective method of propagation is dividing. We do this mostly with our grasses and sedges.

This is where a lot of our propagation happens. We like to call it “The Propagation Station.”

So there you have it–propagation is just one of the ways we stay busy during these cold winter months. Thankfully, things are pretty toasty in here under all this plastic.

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